I generally don’t like anthologies: there will be two or even three stories I like, and then along comes one that doesn’t work at all and it just kills my enjoyment of the whole project. So many different authors, dang it! How can any editor hope to pull them all together? And because of that, I can’t claim to be nearly as well-read in that subgenre as I really should be to be composing a “top 5” list. And yet.

And yet here we are, because twice in the last two months I’ve been reminded just how good SF anthologies can be, and I feel the need to share a few of my long-standing favorites, as well as a couple of new ones.

5. 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories. Some of the O. Henry-style twists are obvious to me now, but when I discovered this volume in grade school, it blew my head open. It was my first exposure to high-quality authored fantasy, and after a steady diet of He-Man/She-Ra cartoons my brain just about went into shock– not least because some of the fantasy stories weren’t afraid to slide into horror.

4. Dangerous Visions. Ah, Harlan. Harlan Ellison is worth a list all by himself, but his anthology has a historical significance and a vibrant force even forty-plus years later. This was a focal point for the “New Wave” of science fiction, a more passionate, involving approach than what had gone before and a style that’s inspired many of my best stories.

3. Flight. These days, it’s almost trite to say something “challenged the notion of what comics could be,” but Flight really deserves that label. Its stories embodied a kind of comics storytelling that had been seen before but never really celebrated, at least not in the U.S…. a style where the narrative served beauty rather than the other way around, full of bright colors, non-traditional subjects and infectious youthful optimism.

2. Machine of Death. I had the opportunity to submit to this exciting anthology and got a rare case of writer’s block, up against such short-form wunderkinds as Ryan North and David Malki, what could I possibly offer? And they were just the editors! The books “#1 on Amazon for a day” status is remarkable, but what’s truly amazing is how many different creative voices it’s gotten to contribute to a single concept– it’s like a Superman or Archie franchise, only much more imaginative.

1. The Nebula Awards Showcase. There are countless “Best Of…” anthologies out there somewhere, and the rival SF lovers’ Hugo Awards is coming out with an anthology again after a long absence from the market. But they’re going to have to go a long way to beat the Nebulas, which has been impressing hell out of me for the last several years. If you want your finger on the pulse of the best new ideas in science fiction and fantasy now, this is an excellent place to start.

There are so many more, though. What did I miss?